Zimbabwe’s human rights situation goes under global spotlight this week and, despite well-documented transgressions, President Emmerson Mnangagwa will hope to shake off the rogue tag that has become the biggest albatross tainting the country’s standing among nations.
Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi will attend the United Nations Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review working group meeting where he will do his best to paint a rosy picture of the country’s human rights situation.
Ziyambi’s job is not going to be easy, but he presented a brave face last week: “I cannot pre-empt what I would want to say at the meeting. I will provide more details after.” The meeting begins tomorrow and the world will be watching to see Ziyambi’s efforts at applying lipstick to a frog.
It is common cause that Zimbabwe’s human rights situation has continued to decline under Mnangagwa’s presidency and perpetrators, including national security forces, have displayed sickening impunity and arrogance as they go about tearing human rights apart in the name of politics.
Unidentified assailants, suspected to be state security agents abducted scores of critics of the government in 2021. Police and other government security forces continued to commit arbitrary arrests, violent assaults, abductions, torture and other abuses against opposition politicians and activists.
Cases of human rights abuses in Zimbabwe are well documented and any well-meaning political leader would know exactly what it is that keeps their name blemished and they would focus on improving their record. It is however clear that human rights abuses are really not committed without the knowledge of the leaders of the country. Perpetrators of the abuses; those that shoot and kill citizens, those that abduct and torture dissenting voices and those that arrest and beat up protesters are really taking their orders from political leaders who will stop at nothing to retain power.
The last human rights review painted a gloomy picture of the situation in Zimbabwe in its 2020 report. The situation is likely to get worse now as the country moves towards decisive elections next year. There is, as happens in every election, fear of serious human rights issues such as unlawful or arbitrary killings of civilians by security forces, torture and arbitrary detention accompanied by cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.
It is not like the government is not aware of this inhuman treatment of citizens, but as Ziyambi defends the government this week, he will deny most of these transgression ever happen, even when they are clearly documented, case by case; name by name with dates and places.
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The results of negative human rights reports include the imposition of economic and other sanctions on a country, and isolation. When this happens, these rogue governments cry out loud presenting themselves as innocent victims of unfair and cruel world leaders.
Zimbabwe’s human rights record is among the worst in the world and it is for this reason that we remain isolated and denied some of the economic freebees that other poor countries receive from global financial institutions.